Q&A with Jay Friedman, Co-Editor of the Fearless Critic Seattle Restaurant Guide"/>
A new guide to the Seattle restaurant scene - Fearless Critic Seattle Restaurant Guide - brings some of the best bloggers and writers together to review 250 of the cities top dining spots. You can meet some of them, including Editor-in-Chief Robin Goldstein at Elliott Bay Books on Saturday December 11 at 5pm to discuss the book. Read Part I for the review
Jay Friedman is co-editor of the guide and a prominent Seattle food writer who contributes to Seattle Weekly's Voracious blog, among other publications, and blogs at Gastrolust.com. We chatted with Jay recently about the book.
SW: How often will this book be updated? It seems like there are new restaurants opening every week.
Jay: Our goal is to publish the book annually, as we recognize that restaurants are constantly opening and closing--and that existing restaurants need ongoing evaluation due to changes. Also note that the Fearless Critic website will offer weekly updates, so in that sense, Fearless Critic is a rather fluid resource.
SW: The ratings were made by consensus, which seems challenging. What was the process - was it like tribal council?
Jay: Fearless Critic takes pride in having a panel of discerning diners. Panelists submit comments and ratings to the editorial board, which does the final write-up and ratings.
SW: How did Fearless Critic stay unbiased when most of the reviewers are recognizable as food writers/critics?
Jay: First, Fearless Critic differentiates itself in having no ties to restaurants, and accepting no advertising. While many of the panelists have achieved notoriety as food writers, they are not allowed to accept paid meals, and strive for anonymity in visiting restaurants (having another person in the dining party make reservations, etc.). Panelists are urged to be as objective as possible, and must recuse themselves from reviewing a restaurant with which they have a personal connection.
SW: It must have been challenging to limit the number of restaurants, or was it?
Jay: Again, objectivity is a primarily goal of the panel. In choosing restaurants, panelists consider any and all restaurants in the Seattle area. Fearless Critic strives to include the top 250 restaurants in the city while simultaneously offering diversity in terms of cuisine type, cost (which is why "hole-in-the-wall" restaurants are included), etc.
SW: As someone that dines out a lot, what restaurant trend or dish are you tired of?
Jay: Personally, I am tiring of confit. Reminiscent of a Seinfeld episode in which Jerry and George lament that so many people like pesto (partly because they like to say "pesto"), I feel the same about confit. Also, halibut gets old for me. I think there are much more interesting fish that restaurants can offer. Don't be afraid to give me fish with bones.
SW: Related to that then, what dish/dishes will you never tire of?
Jay: Aside from a few pet peeves, I'm open to eating anything. I am continually impressed that quality restaurants make amazing soup. Broth/stock is important to me, whether we're talking a ramen joint or a high-end restaurant.
SW: Is there anything you'd like to see more of at restaurants (service, decor, menu offerings, etc.)?
Jay: While I appreciate professional service (and servers who care about their profession), and while I'd like to see Seattle get a little "edgier" with its dining spaces (I like many of the new dining spaces in Portland), the restaurant experience for me is primarily about the food. I'd like to see a continued emphasis on fresh and local. And more use of offal. And in a nod to my roots, better bagels, New York style pizza, and Jewish deli offerings.
SW: What is your ONE favorite restaurant in the book?
Jay: I hate to choose just one, as there are so many quality restaurants in the book, but people who know me know that I especially find Joule to be my favorite restaurant.
SW: What restaurant would you dine at for your last three meals in Seattle? One for breakfast, one for lunch and one for dinner.
Jay: This is just me, and again it's hard to choose just three, but I'd say Paseo for lunch, Joule for dinner, and since I'm not actually that big on breakfast out, the lounge at Canlis for dessert, a cocktail, good tunes, and a high-class finish.
SW: Same question - but for a tourist - which three do you recommend for their breakfast, lunch, dinner. Say they have one full day in Seattle and want to eat well.
Jay: First, I'd want to know the tourist's budget, food preferences, ambiance preferences, etc. Assuming it's a weekend, perhaps I'd recommend Café Campagne for brunch to get them down to Pike Place Market (where the tourist can stroll around and nosh some more) and Green Leaf for lunch (while not the most extensive Vietnamese menu, I think the experience is a good one). For a splurge dinner with spectacular ambiance and service, but also quality food and wine, I might recommend Canlis. Otherwise, Joule if searching for bold, Asian-influenced flavors, the counter at Crush for a chance to watch and taste some fabulous cooking, or Spinasse or Café Juanita for amazing Italian food.
Disclaimer: Jay Friedman is a contributor on Voracious. That being said, I don't know him personally and wasn't obligated to review this book.